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Anime Next 2008
Del Rey Manga

by Mikhail Koulikov,

Dey Rey manga's associate publisher Dallas Middaugh opened the panel by noting that no new licenses would be announced during the hour. The summer's biggest comics-related event, the San Diego Comic-Con, is only a few more weeks away, and Del Rey is saving its biggest news for that audience. At the same time, this gave Middaugh an opportunity to talk at length about Del Rey's publishing process, and especially about the steps his company is now taking to expand into publishing manga-style comics by established and first-time American creators.

Nonetheless, Dey Rey is still a manga publisher first and foremost, with an ever-expanding slate of projects. Fairy Tail, of which three volumes have now been published, has become their most succssful launch title ever. Kitchen Princess also launched strongly, and in fact, many bookstores apparently under-estimated how quickly it would sell out. The Phoenix Wright manga is now on track forn October 2008 release. The explanation for the delay is that for this title, Del Rey had to negotiate with both Kodansha, its Japanese publisher, and with CAPCOM, which owns the rights to the underlying videogames. In Middaugh's words, adding this extra layer of bureaucracy actually increases the work of actually publishing Phoenix Wright's English translation by three to four times.

Release calendars in the publishing industry are frequently set as many as nine to twelve months in advance. So, Del Rey's release schedule for the first months of 2009 is now being finalized. February is the expected publication date of the fantasy/mystery novel Case of the Dragon-Slayer, by Kouhei Kodono, who also authored the Boogiepop novels. In the world of this novel, dragons are thought to be immortal creatures. However, one has been found dead, and a quartet of adventurers finds themselves having to work out the mistery of its demise.

In March 2009, the first volume of Sayonara Zetsubō Sensei is due. Del Rey fully realized the difficulty of translating this manga's vast number of puns and references. According to Middaugh, fan reaction to Del Rey's approach of keeping straight translations fromt he Japanese in the text of their manga, and supplementing that with cultural and translation notes has been very positive, and this will be the translation type that Zetsubo-sensei will use. Finally, April will bring the initial volumes of the bishonen romantic comedy Gakuen Heaven, and Samurai 7, a manga adaptation of the sci-fi anime series which is itself based on Akira Kurosawa's classic martial arts/action film.

A pair of highly unusual non-manga titles that are also in the pipeline for the spring are Del Rey's takes on iconic characters in Marvel's X-Men universe. Middaugh himself is editing the nominally shonen-style Wolverine graphic novel, with Anthony Johnston handling writing duties, and Wilson Tortosa illustrating. Tricia Narwani is set to step up as the editor on the more-shojo book about teenager Kitty Pryde's days at an exclusive academy for teenagers with mutant powers. Indonesian comics artist Anzu will provide the artwork for the story written by Dave Roman and Rayna Telgemeier. Both titles will initially run to two volumes, and other than the characters' basic features, they are not meant to tie them into any existing X-Men storylines or continuities. Some other X-Men characters, such as Nightcrawler and Beast will be featured, although in unique interpretations, but there are no plans to specifically introduce particular X-Men into the plot of either series.

As Del Rey begins to make its first steps into publishing original comics, Middaugh took the closing twenty or so minutes of the panel to talk about how exactly the process is handled. So far, their original books, including The Reformed, In Odd We Trust, and Kasumi have either come from established creators or are based on existing books. Unlike many other publishers, however, Del Rey is open to unsolicited submissions. New artists are asked to submit a concise description of the concept behind their work, a summary of the complete plot, character profiles, and ten to twenty sample pages. That may be waived if the creator is already experienced and well-known in the comics world. In terms of any potential new comics themselves, Del Rey is particularly interested in stories with magical or fantastical element: not necessarily standard Lord of the Rings-inspired Western fantasy, but potentially magical realism, urrban fantasy, or other sub-genres. After the success of Genshiken, stories "immersed in fan culture" are also something they are interested in looking at. And in terms of the general age range of any new submissions, just because of the kidn of graphic novels that are already popular in the U.S., those that aim at male and female teenage audiences (shounen and shoujo) are preferable to attempts to attract older (seine/josei) readers. In any case, these guidelines are recommended, but not exhaustive, and the full details about Del Rey's submission process are available online.

As the panel came to a close, he also made several general recommendations to any aspiring comics creators looking to publish with Del Rey - or with any other company in the market. Simply presenting a concept or idea, without backing it up with a developed plot, characters, and samples of the actual story and artwork is meaningless. If a creator's work is accepted, and he or she is actually offered a contact, retaining a lawyer to review the terms of the document is absolutely crucial. Even if the cost of legal representation will actually lead to losing money on the contract, the experience itself should be worth it. Particular contractual issues to keep in mind could include specifics of pay schedules, at which point would the copyright on any work created under a contract revert back to the author, how are sales of merchandise handled, and whether a publisher that signs a contract with a creator would then have the right of first refusal to any of his or her subsequent works.

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